Grand Prairie — North Texas got its fill of Irish step dance recently. Riverdance came to the Allen Event Center in February, and last Saturday saw a sold out house for Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. With the promise of seeing the show’s creator Michael Flatley for his last tour, audiences packed the Verizon Theatrr in Grand Prairie for a one-night engagement.
With its explosive Irish dancing, thunderous music, and stunning visuals, the production has kept patrons coming for 20 years. Coming off the heels of the successful Riverdance, many wondered whether another Irish dance show would make it, but as the gaudier, flashier younger sibling of the original Celtic hit, Lord of the Dance has smashed records.
The show received a facelift in 2014 with a new score by Gerard Fahy, but the basic good vs. evil storyline remains with the Lord of the Dance (James Keegan) saving the land from the evil villain Don Dorcha and his minions. A slight love story pervades as well, as Keegan is forced to choose between his pristine maiden Saoirse or Don Dorcha’s seductive assistant, Morrighan.
Critics have frequently used the term “Vegas-style” to describe it, for good reason. The set alone allowed for a grandeur that many touring shows lack. A raised platform spanning the width of the stage with stairs in front and a screen behind created a massive space for brilliant projections. Add in spectacular lighting and pyrotechnics, and the dancers’ flickering feet seemed that much more magical.
Not that they needed much help. Flatley’s intricate choreography proved quite impressive and challenging, but the dancers executed it with ease and precision. Dazzling hard-shoe maneuvers created sounds that don’t seem possible, and the ladies’ soft-shoe segments found them gliding across the floor with ease. Ensemble numbers created a thunderous sound and a sensational picture on stage. The addition of a gymnast, The Little Spirit, sweetened the pot.
Then there’s the bad guy, who was so good one couldn’t help but cheer for him. He was not the only one to display an engaging theatricality, but he was certainly the best. Keegan lived up to his character as the best dancer on stage.
There’s a downside to all the extravagance, however. In the effort to entertain, the show goes over the top, and at times, turns absolutely ridiculous. With a basis in Irish step dance, one might expect some other traditional elements, such as in Riverdance, but after an ancient-looking opening segment with robes, masks, and torches, the show turns into a glitzy commercial spectacle.
Ladies’ choreography mixes with jazz dance and the lackluster performance of such American choreography makes some segments look like a bad 1980s music video. Morrighan’s dance moves might as well have included a pole on stage.
Which leads to the biggest observation from the show and probably another reason why it’s so popular. It’s straight up eye candy. Young, attractive men and women strutted about the stage donning revealing outfits that displayed lean, flawlessly muscled bodies. Gentlemen frequently danced in tight shirts or none at all, and Keegan’s bare chest probably received more applause than his dancing did.
The ladies, with their perfectly teased hair and heavy makeup, would occasionally pose on the stairs like the Real Housewives of Irish Dance. One section even had them in brightly colored sports bras and black pants like they were about to shoot a Zumba workout video. Even the fiddlers, as amazing as they were, were clad in short, strapless sequined dresses and stiletto heels.
Yet, with all the silly and laughable moments, it’s still an impressive show and an utterly good time. Flatley made an appearance for the finale, and the multitude of encores kept the audience cheering. One couldn’t help but be carried away by the electrifying buzz built up throughout the entire performance.